San Antonio Spurs: Goals for DeMar DeRozan in the 2019 Offseason
By Damien Bartonek
After an exceptional first season with the San Antonio Spurs, there are a few areas of concern for DeMar DeRozan to address in the 2019 Offseason.
What’s going on, Spurs family! As we are in official offseason mode, the time has come for the improvements that I’d like to see made by a variety of players. Today though, there’s something special – No. 10 had a career year in San Antonio under head coach Gregg Popovich and co. in only year one.
Posting career highs in assists, rebounds and field goal percentage since his rookie year where he only played 21 minutes per game. We saw a much more dynamic DeMar DeRozan, one that was asked to do more than just pull up from mid-range and put the orange thing inside the orange thing.
DeMar was asked much more than what any normal player would pick up. The ability to create open looks in a mid-range heavy offense, creating open looks for an offense that desperately needed them and being the engine and glue to a Spurs team that desperately needed it after an uncharacteristic 2017-2018 offseason.
All that being said, we are going to look at some improvements needed to be made so No. 10 can help carry the Spurs to not only a better record during the regular season, but much deeper into the post-season.
Next: The Obvious - Fixing the Three-Point Shot
The Obvious – Fixing the Three-Point Shot
DeMar DeRozan’s three-point shot is as non-existent as my six pack – not a six pack of Dos Equis, more like my abs.
All jokes aside, he doesn’t shoot threes. To his credit, he’s been an All-NBA, All Star level player without doing so, but he desperately needs to add that into his game. To me, it’s not an issue of his form or his mechanics, he just doesn’t show much attention to it. DeRozan creates a ton of separation off the dribble and even in half court sets. When the game slows down, he really sets up shop.
DeRozan has great footwork, a great handle and a smooth jumper with a high release point. I mention that because shooting a three shouldn’t come tough for him. I think him electing not ro shoot threes is more of a mental gymnastic than anything else. Reason being, he’s great at mid-range jump shots and finishing at the rim, so he hasn’t been asked to shoot many threes throughout his career.
In college, he barely shot any triples. It’s never been in his bag. At this time, it needs to be in his bag and I’m not talking about a little carry-on bag. I need that big, Louis Vuitton suitcase bag.
It mind-boggles me as to why he doesn’t shoot threes. I really feel like he can easily create an open three – he has a great side step and gets a ton of lift on his shots, so he can separate even when heavily pressed on. He’s great off of screens and if you sag off, your swag’s off with him (Shout out Chris Smoove).
Even in terms of getting out of his comfort zone, now is the time. As a 29-year-old, I feel like this is the time to really make three-point shooting a part of his game. Tons of great players, from the all-time greats like LeBron and MJ to lower-tiered good players like LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin all have added a different dynamic to their jump-shooting. Whether it be adding a post fade, or a three-point shot like LaMarcus, or hell in Blake’s case literally everything, it can be done.
It’s work. It has to get done. This season, he needs to shoot more threes. Coach Gregg Popovich stated to The Athletic’s Jabari Young that he wants “DeMar to shoot more threes” next season. That’s important because with DeMar shooting more triples, the Spurs’ spacing would benefit tremendously. Having a bunch of unproven three-point jump shooters on the floor looking into next season, potentially running a DJ-DW-DDR-LMA-Jak lineup, screams for no spacing.
I’m sure that’s not the exact lineup, but don’t be surprised if it’s out there at some point. DeMar’s three-point shot will be important as well, because like I say with other unproven shooters, he will get a TON of open looks to start. They will let him shoot it and will close out very weak on every attempt from deep.
Especially with a good pump fake, a decent three-point shot can easily have him stroll right into his bread and butter with the lovely honey butter chicken biscuit mid-range. A three-point shot for DeMar is deeper than just him, it’s so much more impactful for this team. The Spurs have an excellent transition offense game. Not in terms of lobs, (wait to see Lonnie Walker IV and DJM in the open court) but in terms of open court spacing and ability to fill the arc with quality shot attempts, they’re phenomenal at that.
Dejounte Murray, like DeMar DeRozan, is a great passer. Dejounte has been working with Chip on his deep shot – imagine if DeMar could space the floor on the outside with Dejounte leading the break, & vice versa. It adds a completely different dynamic to this team that can also help elevate others, because of his ability to distribute and find open shooters off the dribble. At the top of the key, he can drive, draw the big into the paint, kick to an open shooter in the corner and its cash money till the death of me. Great stuff can come about from his potential future ability from three.
I am not asking that DeMar shoot 39% from 3, but a dramatic and much needed increase is asked of him right now, and rightfully so. The Spurs need DeMar to hover around 30-32%. If he can take three triples per game, considering they will likely all be open, and make 1, that’s huge. Very huge.
DeMar is someone who also gets hot very quickly, gets in that Meek Mill “Hip-Hop” zone and becomes lights-out. Honestly, even if he can become a decent spot up shooter and rotate correctly on offense (He has great offensive IQ), catching a corner three, which will likely be open, and making it at a decent clip could benefit this team GREATLY.
Next: Tweaking On-Ball and Transition Defense
Tweaking On-Ball and Transition Defense
In football it’s called “starting in the backfield.” DeMar is caught at times getting beat on backdoor cuts or getting beat to a spot when in reality, he shouldn’t be. He has great footwork, he’s smart with good length and athleticism. His anticipation on defense sometimes lacks as well. He guesses on defense and will oftentimes miss.
Don’t get me wrong, he plays passing lanes well, but he struggles on the ball at times. It’s not an attention to detail type issue or a lack of focus, he just gets beat. It’s something that’ll come the more practice at it. At age 29, it doesn’t sound great hearing an NBA player needs to “practice” at his craft, but his trainer will tell you that he works on everything all offseason.
The best NBA players, not in terms of rank but ones who have had long term success, always work on their craft. Every player with an intense work ethic like DeMar gets better at something every offseason until they call it a career. The Spurs system doesn’t require the best on-ball defenders, but it does require great team defenders. It requires that when you rotate or switch, you’re on your game and feed any issues to any help that you have. Be smart, play fast and make quick decisions.
I think it’ll progress in his second season with the Spurs, but his defense has got to improve.
Another thing I’d like to see improve in the defensive category is his transition defense. In football, a defensive back’s attribute of switching his hips is very important. In transition, a defender’s lower body movement is crucial. Length can make up for it – DeMar has a good bit of both, so there’s not much of an excuse for much failure.
Of course, some opponents will be bigger, faster and stronger than him, but the bigger picture here is that he needs to get better. Not even in terms of steals or blocks but staying in front of his assignment and disrupting a bit, slowing it down and making the player overthink.
The Spurs’ transition defense was lacking without the likes of Kyle Anderson and Danny Green last season. These guys show that you don’t need to be an athletic freak to be the best transition defender, it’s just the ability to use your body and strength to stay in front of people – it makes a HUGE difference. Is it easy? No. Can DeMar do it? Yes. He’s built for it, it’ll get done.
For me, these are the two biggest things by far. I’m cool with the technical fouls; I think they’re great actually. I’m cool with him adding that “Dog” to a team that desperately needed it. I’m cool with the aggressive thoughts and late-night IG stories.
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Whether you respect his game or not, you get 110% of DeMar DeRozan every night on that floor. I think he is working on this as we speak. I’m sure he doesn’t need some newly aged 21-year-old like myself to tell him what he needs to work on.
With a contract extension looming, this is a huge year for DeRozan. Does he like San Antonio? I’d imagine so. Does he appreciate the fans and the coaches? I’d imagine so. Do I think that’ll have him be the same player next season? Absolutely not.
The first few months of the 2019 NBA season will be huge on the judgement of DeMar’s offseason and future in the Silver & Black. My personal take, if I were in Vegas at a roulette table, is that I’m putting all my chips on 10.
Putting money that he’ll progress this offseason and bring a much bigger bag on both ends of the court. If not, it’ll be unfortunate because I can’t imagine a positive sign for the Spurs future. This past year was a career year. After his best all-around season ever, I think it gets better from here.
I think if this doesn’t improve, the Spurs will have a very hard ceiling to break through. That ceiling is second round, max. With an improved, more dynamic shooter and better defender in DeMar, the sky could be the limit. I’ll leave you with this: ice cream is the most overrated dessert.